Nathaniel Joseph “Nate” Ruess (born February 26, 1982) is an American singer and songwriter. He is the lead singer of the indie pop band Fun., and previously of The Format. As of 2015, he also performs as a solo musician.
Ruess was born on February 26, 1982, in Iowa City, Iowa to Larry Ruess and Bess Zinger. He is the younger of two children, having one sister named Elizabeth. His uncle, John Ruess, was a performer on Broadway and served as an influence for Ruess’ musical ventures.
In 1986, his family moved to a farm in Glendale, Arizona, due to repeated bouts of pneumonia Ruess faced as a child. Ruess remained in Arizona throughout his childhood and attended Deer Valley High School, graduating in 2000. During his time in school, Ruess played in punk bands and upon graduation chose to pursue music professionally. In an interview with American Songwriter Ruess states, “I’m not one to take lessons, so I decided that the only way I was going to learn how to sing, if what they were saying was true, was to go in my car and put on any sort of music from a vocalist that might be really hard to mimic, turn it on as loud as possible and try to hit all those notes”. He took a job in a law firm as a way to support himself while he pursued his musical ambitions.
In 2002, at the age of 19, he launched the band the Format with his longtime best friend, Sam Means. The Format was his first musical endeavor to gain widespread attention.
After forming in 2002, the Format released a five song EP, titled EP, which generated local interest and led to the band being signed to Elektra Records in 2002. They released their first studio album, Interventions + Lullabies, on October 21, 2003, leading to more local mainstream success. The band’s fanbase began to grow, and the Format released their second EP, Snails, with Atlantic Records in April 2005. However, while working on their second album, Dog Problems, they were dropped from Atlantic. They eventually created their own label, The Vanity Label, and released the album on July 10, 2006. On February 4, 2008, Ruess announced through the band’s blog that the Format would not be making another album.